HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM)– The Pennsylvania state budget remains in limbo 12 days after its due date was de-railed mostly by a fight over school vouchers.
Senate Republicans and the Democratic governor both want $100 million to help kids in poor-performing schools but there is a lot of passion.
“Another family who knows their child will not be well served by that system,” Senator Anthony Williams (D-Philadelphia) said.
Williams says he knows a distraught mom who has a child in a school whose math proficiency score is zero. Vouchers, he argues, would help.
“We cannot wait,” Williams said. “She cannot wait anymore for us to debate about funding.”
Chair of the Education Committee State Rep. Peter Schweyer-D says he is one of those parents. His kids go to schools that underperform because they are chronically underfunded.
“Every dollar that we don’t spend on our K-12 schools is a dollar that’s being taken away from our kids,” Schweyer said. “You know, it means less teachers in our classrooms. It means it means fewer textbooks…somehow, someway, that’s I’m supposed to be happy to take away another $100 million that could be going towards replacing or fixing that school and say it’s okay.”
But vouchers are ok with Governor Josh Shapiro.
“The governor and I disagree on a policy issue,” Schweyer said.
Williams’ mom is a public school teacher, and his dad went to Penn Law on the GI Bill, the greatest voucher program ever he argues.
“Don’t tell me about the history of this country with vouchers, don’t lecture to me about my children,” Williams said. “We do something on behalf of those thousands of parents who can’t afford to do it themselves and who don’t have a political lobby up here running around the building. Who are scared to death about what’s going to happen to their child tomorrow.”
“It’s going to take me more than a couple of months to be able to fix 10, 15, 20 years of Republican disinvestment in our schools,” Schweyer said. “But I’m going to do my absolute very best to make sure it happens, because not only is it your kids we’re talking about, it’s my kids, too.”
To be sure there are powerful special interests battling, like the teacher’s union, which is opposed and the conservative Commonwealth Foundation is for and that fight won’t be ending anytime soon.